RED SPRINGS — After shifting $55,000 from the Capital Reserve and General Fund to provide for a basketball court and a communication system for the town’s vehicles, the Red Springs Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $9.3 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The budget includes a 3 percent pay increase for the town’s employees, the first in six years. It keeps the tax rate of 63 cents for every $100 property, but includes a $1 monthly hike in sanitation fees to raise revenue for a new garbage truck.
The commissioners also nixed a proposed $25 reconnect fee for residents who are late on their utility bill but whose service has not been disconnected, a proposal that had been debated in previous budget and board meetings and would have added $30,000 to the town’s bottom line in savings and new revenue. The town currently spends about $25,000 annually paying someone to disconnect customers, some of whom get tipped that their service will be interrupted and rush to pay their bill at the last minute.
“The situation is very real, because the economy makes it real, and I think we need to explore it more,” Commissioner Eula McNeill said.
A motion by Commissioner Edward Henderson to move $25,000 from the town’s reserves to the Recreation Fund in order to pay for a new basketball court in the Westgate Terrace or Mill Village areas was seconded by Commissioner Duron Burney and passed unanimously. Ronald Oxendine, executive director of the Robeson County Housing Authority, said that the authority would be providing playground equipment for small children in Westgate Terrace, a concern brought to the board by residents at its regular June meeting.
After hearing a request from Burney that prices on a communications system for the town’s vehicles be brought to the board, the commissioners unanimously voted that $20,000 from the town’s General Fund be reserved for that expense, dropping the General Fund to $162,000. The town’s Capital Reserve now totals $67,000.
“I think this has been one of the longest and most drawn-out budget processes ever,” Mayor John McNeill said. ” … The shocking thing is that we probably increased line items rather than decreased which is more the norm, but I think the board put a tremendous amount of thought into working with this budget … .”
Also on Tuesday, the board:
— Approved a request from Strata Solar Inc. for a conditional-use permit it needs to place a solar farm on the corner of N.C. 71 and Milk Dairy Road.
— Authorized the town manager to submit an application for a $200,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, which will pay for construction of eight rental housing units for people with disabilities on East Seventh Avenue.
Abbi Overfelt works for Civitas Media as editor of The Red Springs Citizen and The St. Pauls Review.